For baseball fans and Fantasy team owners, looking at the standings near the end of June reveals a telling statistic – the major league season is almost half over. 80 or so games are in the books and it’s time for an honest evaluation of your team. No more excuses of slumps, shifts, off-season injuries, smoke & mirror performances and the like. As with most real-life situations, it’s all about what you’ve done for me lately and what you project to do moving forward.
Some very predictable things have already happened. Cody Allen, Trevor Cahill, Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, David Robertson & Joaquin Soria aren’t worth an average of $10 Million each. Jeff McNeil isn’t a flash in the pan, DJ LeMahieu and Michal Brantley were great signings, Josh Bell and Ketel Marte are better than we thought and the ball is definitely juiced. And, of course, Mario Mendoza’s memory is alive and well in the bats of Rougned Odor & Yonder Alonso. On the other end of the spectrum, how about the best-of-the-best? Who are really the top MLB players so far for 2019? Not just the obvious stars, but also the underrated contributors that help teams win, but may not get the headlines. Where do we find an objective, unbiased determination to create this list? The answer is…we go to WAR.
WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is a new-age metric developed by SABRmetricians to gauge the value of an individual player to his team. It creates a number that represents how many wins the player adds to his team’s record above what a replacement player (AAA or AAAA) would contribute. A one-season figure of 8 or better is MVP caliber, while 5 or better is All-Star level. Some “old-school” fans don’t always buy into the stat, but the results tell you that it is very much on-target. The major league leader in three different seasons (2012, 2013 & 2016) was Mike Trout and the lifetime leader is Babe Ruth. The all-time top five also includes Willie Mays, Ty Cobb & Hank Aaron. AL MVP Mookie Betts was the best in ’18 with a figure of 10.9. So, with the help of baseball-reference.com, let’s see where we are for the first half of 2019.
As your humble essayist is from the school of thought that hitters should win the MVP and pitchers should win the Cy Young, we’ll list the offensive players first and then the hurlers.
> Position Players
1) Cody Bellinger, Dodgers 1B/OF 6.3 WAR – A great young player who is also exhibit A in the non-scientific theory that the ball was juiced in 2017 and again this year…39 HR’s as a rookie in ’17, 25 HR’s in ’18 and 25 more in a half a season in ’19.
2) Mike Trout, Angels OF 5.4 WAR – No matter how good we think he is…he’s better. A .468 OBP and 1.121 OPS tells the story.
3) Christian Yelich, Brewers OF 4.7 WAR – Last year’s MVP isn’t slowing down a bit.
4) Matt Chapman, A’s 3B 3.9 WAR – An outstanding all-around player, much of his value comes from defense.
5T) Jorge Polanco, Twins SS 3.8 WAR – The average fan doesn’t even know this Twinkie but he’s leading the AL in Hits and has a .936 OPS.
5T) Alex Bregman, Astros 3B 3.8 WAR – At age 25, he’s coming off a 6.9 WAR season in ’18.
1) Mike Minor, Rangers 5.1 WAR – Yes, the best Pitcher this season performs in Arlington, Texas. A record of 7-4 with a 2.52 ERA (in a league with the DH) is amazing. If you were paying attention, this isn’t a complete fluke as he posted a 3.9 WAR in 2018.
2) Max Scherzer, Nationals 4.1 WAR – A mediocre record of 6-5 hides the peripherals…2.62 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 146 K’s in 106 IP.
3) Zack Greinke, D’Backs 3.8 WAR – He proves that velocity isn’t everything by allowing less than a base runner pre inning in a hitter’s environment.
4) Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers 3.7 WAR – He’s been a revelation for the Blue Crew with a 9-1 record and a microscopic ERA of 1.27.
There you have the top ten players at the half-way point (stats as of 6/23). We’ll re-visit the numbers after September 28th and anoint the top ten for the season.